L. Fickler-Greatest Generation
Updated: Feb 19
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The greatest generation is a term made popular by journalist Tom Brokaw to describe the group of people who grew up in the United States during the Great Depression and then
went on to fight in World War II. In the book, Brokaw wrote, "it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced." He argued that these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. Lloyd Fickler's life fit the time frame of the greatest generation as well as demonstrating what they were all about.
I love this picture of Lloyd. The photo was taken when he was only 22 years old and forever captures his youthful appearance: the joyful smile, hat at the perfect angle, headphones ready, and scarf tied flawlesly in front. This is the picture of a man full of confidence, optimistic about the job ahead, and ready to take it on.
But fighting any war is an extremely difficult thing to do, and Lloyd certainly experienced some conflicting emotions. For example, he knew he was fortunate to complete 25 missions when so many others did not (the mortality rate of crew members on B17's in 1943 was about one in five). But he also felt terrible that so many innocent civilians were killed in the bombing raids which he was a part of. In the end, his safe return to base after his 25th and final mission over Bordeaux, France, a tiring 11 1/2 hour flight, and the longest he had made, was one of the happiest days of his life. He had a record of more than 700 hours in the air during all these raids and was "particularly grateful that no members of the crew were lost on any of the them."
There were lots of times when the fighting was more up close and personal, and Lloyd was able to do what was necessary to protect himself and others. When asked about the report that German pilots were flying captured American planes and had attempted to join an American raiding squadron, he said it was true. But he noted that the Americans had been warned of such an attempt, and their own planes had secret identification marks which the enemy planes didn't have. "When we got the signal and opened up on them, we simply mowed them down," he said.
Lloyd's service didn't end with his 25 missions. He served as an air corps instructor at Dyersberg, Tennessee, and said, "on the whole, losses of our planes are light considering the enemy defense. If the boys can keep on getting this type of equipment, they will do the job," adding "my survival was miraculous, but I am ready to return whenever they need me."
And they did still need him. Later that year, he was sent to Tinian Island in the Pacific as an assistant operations manager where he watched the Enola Gay leave for Japan with the atomic bomb aboard. He was then assigned to fly to Guam where he picked up a top-secret package that contained the medals and citations for Enola Gay crew members.
Lloyd Fickler and the men of the Rum Boogie crew - all members of The Greatest Generation. Above left, Lloyd, looking as dapper as ever, with Al Neff, Rum Boogie Tail Gunner
at one of the reunions.